Whether we agree with it or not, Benson Henderson is still the UFC lightweight champion and Frankie Edgar is headed back to the drawing board for the first time in four years.
UFC 150 provided us with another potential storm of controversy at 155 lbs, but UFC president Dana White is determined to move forward within the division. At this point, who can blame him? The title’s last six defenses have featured the same four fighters.
So as promised, Henderson will defend the belt against top contender Nate Diaz later this year, while Edgar faces a multitude of questions regarding his future, none more prevalent than the option to drop to featherweight – a move that would appease many.
What about the other fighters that competed in Denver this past weekend? Well, here’s a list of potential matchups the UFC could make down the line.
Frankie Edgar vs. Chad Mendes – Who knows if Frankie will actually make the drop down to 145 lbs. After the trillion times that he’s been asked about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays at lightweight out of spite. At the same time, he’ll have to wait a while to get back in the title picture after two losses to Benson. And as of right now, the list of featherweight contenders is pretty thin. (See Erik Koch’s upcoming title shot as evidence) A title shot in another division after a loss isn’t unheard of, but after two it is. Give Mendes the chance to welcome Edgar into the division and let’s watch a battle between two very well-rounded guys.
Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis – This matchup is a no-brainer at this point. Cerrone has been calling Pettis out for over a year now, and Pettis can only remind everyone about his recovery from shoulder surgery so many times before he has to start deciding on a return time. They should have met in the WEC but now is as good a time as ever. The winner will likely step in line behind Nate Diaz for a shot at Henderson. In fact, these two fights could end up on the same card provided Pettis is ready to return by the end of the year.
Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner – You can’t help but feel for both guys at this point. It just seems like neither of them have been able to maintain momentum without suffering a setback in recent years. As much as I would like both Guillard and Varner to receive tune-ups in their next fights, it just can’t happen in the cutthroat lightweight division. At any rate, a bout between these two would be an exciting one at that and would serve as a quick way to get back on track. Unfortunately, it also might mean walking papers for the loser.
Jake Shields vs. Yushin Okami – Stylistically, it’s not a fight that anyone wants to see, but one that needs to happen. The two fought before at Rumble on the Rock’s welterweight tournament in ’06 and Shields took home a close, majority decision in a fight that went exactly as you would expect it to. Still, the back-and-forth pace made it watchable and would probably do the same today. A matchup now would let us know quick whether or not Okami has lost a step or if Shields is ready to take on the upper-echelon of middleweights.
Max Holloway vs. Nam Phan – At only 20 years of age, the sky is the limit for Holloway and let’s hope the UFC takes notice and decides to string him along slowly. A meeting with Phan does just that. It’s a favorable matchup for Holloway as his smooth striking and decent takedown defense matches up well with the veteran, who is slowly settling into a gatekeeper role at featherweight.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice - Call me partial since Bermudez is a good acquaintance to a close friend of mine, but it has been fun to watch him progress as he has since the conclusion of TUF 14. His aggressive style certainly helps. After two wins against, a small step up in competition may be warranted and could come in the form of Grice, an experienced wrestler who’s wrestling level is on par with that of Bermudez, making for an interesting clash.